From the island’s iconic “paladares” pop-up restaurants to Ernest Hemingway’s favourite cocktail spot, here are a few essential places to eat and drink in the one and only Cuba.
Anyone who has even the slightest knowledge of Cuban history will know of the country’s 1950s communist revolution that resulted in pressure cooker tensions with the USA. But what you may not know is that the island has experienced a culinary revolution over the last few years, which means there’s litereally neve rbeen a better time to visit this exciting new destination.
Paladares are pop-up restaurants in private houses that were legalised by the Cuban government in the 1990s. These outlets offer Cuban entrepreneurs the chance to sell food to visiting tourists, and they represent a large part of the island’s culinary offerings.
Cuba’s Food Scene
Since 2010, the food scene on the island has been revitalised further, by official governmental decree, and now lots of eateries have popped up across the capital Havana. With incredible history and affordable cuisine, holidays in Cuba are increasingly a bucket-list item for travelers of all ages. So take a few minutes to learn about some of the best and most interesting places to eat.
Where to Eat & Drink in Cuba
La Fontana ~ One of the Best Paladares in Havana
The tapas and charcoal grill offerings of La Fontana have been pulling in consistently positive international reviews since 1995. With water features, quaint brick walls and explosions of verdant ferns and plants all around, it’s a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach.
You’ll find enormous portions of grilled meat and fish that make the starters purely optional. La Fontana is one of the top paladares on the island for sure.
Address: Avenida 3raA, No 305, La Habana
Reservations and more info: www.lafontanahavana.info
Le Chansonnier ~ French-Inspired Dishes and Cuban Art
Another one of the top paladares picks, Le Chansonnier is a stylish location that offers French-inspired cuisine including duck dishes and pork tartare. The décor and high ceilings almost evoke the feeling of a French mansion to pair delightfully with the dishes.
Go for the food, which is cooked to a very high standard. Return to admire the artworks produced by contemporary Cuban artists.
Address: Plaza de la Revolucion, Calle J No 257, La Habana
Reservations and more info: www.lechansonnierhabana.com
La Bodeguita del Medio ~ Hemingway’s Haunt
Ernest Hemingway allegedly stated that he liked “My mojito in the Bodeguita del Medio and my daiquiri in the Floridita”. The former still does a thriving trade and is a bustling, graffiti-covered hostelry. If you want to sample an authentic Cuban bar that serves traditional food, then this is the place to go!
This restaurant-bar was frequented by many other famous personalities, including Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nat King Cole and Pablo Neruda. Allegedly the home of the mojito, La Bodeguita del Medio is worth a visit for its rich history alone.
Address: Calle Empedrado No. 206, La Habana
More info: www.labodeguitadelmedio.com.mx
Café Laurent ~ Classic and Refined
This fine dining restaurant is something of a diamond in the rough. The sophistication of modernist the interior is belied by the incredibly spartan 1950s apartment block that houses it. Seafood and sautéed pork are among the house specialties.
Address: Penthouse, Calle M No. 257, La Habana 10400
Reservations and more info: www.cafelaurent.ueuo.com
Coppelia ~ Ice Cream by Fidel Castro
Known as a cathedral to ice cream, Coppelia was created by Fidel Castro as a socialist ice-cream parlour to rival anything that the United States rivals had to offer. To this day, it remains one of the largest ice cream parlours in the world.
Coppelia is situated on a busy junction, and you should be prepared for a wait to get your hands on your ice cream. But the unique queuing system is almost a part of the experience, and the people-watching available is a fine appetiser.
Address: Calle 23 y L, Vedado, La Habana